The initial speed bumps of launch day overcome, the Halo Reach beta is now into it’s final days. Here’s a quick overview with my own impressions:
Loadouts – These replace Halo 3’s equipment, which could be picked up during a match. You’ll now choose from four different types of Spartan at the beginning of each match and before every respawn. Each comes with it’s own unique perk, which can be used in short bursts as well as a different default weapon. They’re an interesting tweak to the gameplay, in my mind a better addition to combat than the equipment.
So far I’ve been favouring the Scout and Airborne classes. Scout’s a great way to catch up to flag and skull holders or ducking out of fire when your shields have been dropped. Airborne carries a high risk/reward, getting up to flags and sniping positions quickly but leaving you vulnerable in-flight. It’s perfect for frustrating sword carriers and the melee-happy, though.
Customisation – The rewards system has been changed slightly to bring it more in line with other shooters. Play games, earn XP and unlock new armour.
Sadly, this is all cosmetic, with no affect on gameplay. Since stopping to look at anyone’s customisation will leave you being teabagged in four fifth’s of a second, this is pretty much pointless. I’d rather see some of the loadouts and weapons initially locked at the start of play. It would give an incentive to keep playing, as well as cutting back on the almost bewildering array of weapons the game contains.
Modes – All the usual suspects (CtF, Oddball, etc) are present and correct, with a few new interesting additions:
- Headhunter has you picking up a skull off each corpse, but get killed yourself and you drop them all. Sniping won’t win this one but scavenging might, as only picking up the skull counts towards your score.
- Stockpile is a multi-flag type. Bring flags back to the base, but a timer ticks down before they count, so they need to be defended.
- Generator defence has 3 points on the map that need to be locked down/blown into small pieces.
- Invasion is the most ambitious of the new modes, a multi-part objective-based mode on the only map big enough to contain vehicles.
While the smaller single-player modes are huge amounts of fun, the game falls apart the more team-focussed it becomes. The games of Invasion I played in particular were a complete shambles with no-one speaking or working together. Friendly co-operation has never been Halo’s strong point, so it’ll be interesting to see how this fares in the final release.
Maps – Up to Bungie’s usual high standard, well balanced with few places to hide. The close-quarters Swordbase in particular perfectly suits the fast pace and up-close gameplay that’s Halo’s signature.
So what did I take away from all this? Well, it’s Halo alright. The loadouts are fun to play with, and their tactical purpose becomes more obvious they more you play. The unlocks and Invasion mode however, feel like Bungie playing catch up with the other big online shooters, and are a bad fit.
The biggest difference to the whole experience though, is just the fact that running at someone while emptying a clip to drop their shields, then melee-ing them up close doesn’t work so much now. A small health bar’s been re-introduced, so a second strike or a couple of extra rounds is needed for the kill. That’s the most earth-shattering change to the core gameplay.
Will the changes and new content be enough to persuade the masses to move on from Halo 3? Will the prospect of paying out for the inevitable slew of DLC maps post-release put them off (it’s enough to make me think twice)? Let’s have your opinions below…